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Writer Sharpening Writer authors Emma Fox and Katie Mitchell share their encouragement to each other as writers
It all starts with a story. For Emma (Marshall) Fox ’05, it started with a ladybug book followed by the tale of her father’s John Deere tractor. From there, her passion for writing grew. “I wanted to be a writer before I was even able to read,” said Emma. After graduating Covenant as a music major, she taught music for ten years and earned a master’s degree in Art History. However, with two kids and another on the way, Emma wanted more flexibility without letting go of her creativity, so she committed to writing again. Her passion for fairytale retellings led to her first award-winning young adult novel, The Arrow and the Crown.
“I knew this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I also knew I didn’t want to do it alone,” said Emma. After her first publication, she reached out to Covenant’s alumni office, asking about other authors who were also Covenant alum. She emailed four different authors, and Katie (Ladny) Mitchell ’07 responded.
Katie shared a similar passion for writing, proclaiming herself as one of those eager children who looked forward to the writing assignments her teachers gave her and wrote a short book when she was seven. She dabbled in fantasy throughout high school, and later, wrote about her husband's heartfelt proposal and submitted it to a writing contest, which she won, receiving her first writing paycheck. She then self-published the story with her husband as a book titled Don’t Settle for a Fairytale: A True Love Story.
“When Emma reached out to me,” said Katie, “I had a lot of imposter syndrome and thoughts like, ‘I’m not a real writer because I am only self-published.’” Becoming friends at a time when both were starting their writing journey marked the beginning of a new story—one of support, encouragement, publication, and growth. “Friends can sympathize with me, but Emma can empathize with me because she feels the same pain and the same joy with writing and publication,” said Katie.
As beta readers, or ‘pre-publication’ readers, Emma and Katie offer critiques to one another, sharpening their work without losing the heart of their writing. When Emma told Katie that she’d been offered a book contract with Owl's Nest Publishers, Katie almost cried with delight. Being on the same uphill journey offers them a relationship of sharing in each others’ sorrow and joy.
In Katie’s journey to publication, Emma’s encouragement to shift her audience to young adults in order to submit to a different publishing house ended up being incredible advice. Katie submitted two different ideas to Bandersnatch Books, and a few weeks later received word that they were interested. “Emma encouraged me to see my work from a different angle, and has challenged me to perfect and sharpen my work,” said Katie.
Together, the two have pushed each other, strengthening their skills and their faith. “Writing is often more about faithfulness to a calling rather than writing ‘just because’,” said Emma. Emphasizing the humility that comes with writing, submitting, re-writing, and re-submitting, Katie and Emma said that they do what they can but ultimately trust in God’s plan.
As two people who have been part of several different stories and callings, they want to offer students and alumni alike this encouragement: “Often God will call you to do different things at different times in your life, so don’t get hung up on finding your one thing, because it will change,” said Emma. “If it is something that you are called to do, God gives you the strength and perseverance to keep at it,” said Katie, “and having that friend to halve the sorrows and double the joys is an incredible gift from God.”
Emma’s most recent novel, an adventurous captivating historical fantasy titled The Carver and the Queen, was published by Owl’s Nest Publishers on October 3, 2023. “When you read Emma’s writing, it's really transporting, but in a gritty, honest way,” said Katie. Emma described Katie’s writing as humorous and full of heart. Katie’s forthcoming murder mystery novel about sister sleuths who witness a crime during a production of Hamlet is titled Not to Be and will hit the shelves in 2025.